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02 Jun
1 Washington Place, corner of Broadway
Jun 2, 2018 | 11:00 AM-7:00 PM


Gallatin Alumni College 2018

Welcome back to Gallatin!

Thank you for joining your fellow alumni for the fourth annual Alumni College—a day of scholarship, conversations, and camaraderie that highlight all that Gallatin has to offer. Gallatin started the Alumni College in 2015 in response to requests from alumni who knew that the Gallatin seminar was a singular experience they wanted to enjoy again.

During Alumni College, which will be held at the School's LEED-certified 1 Washington Place building, you will attend a seminar—or two, or three—led by Professors Dinwiddie, Duncombe, Gurman, Murphy, Phillips-Fein, Pies, Rajsingh, Shulman, Stanley, and Velasco.

After the discussions have ended, you may bring a guest to join our annual Alumni Wine Reception and raise a glass in The Jerry H. Labowitz Theatre for the Performing Arts.

All Alumni College programming is complimentary and registration is required. Kindly let us know by Tuesday, May 29, if you can’t honor your reservation.


Session One
11:00 am-12:30 pm

  • Michael Dinwiddie: “The 1980s East Village: B-Boys, Basquiat and Binibons”
  • Stephen Duncombe: “The Art of Political Imagination”
  • Stacy Pies: “Language as the Political: Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse”
  • Alejandro Velasco: “From Left to Right (and Back Again?) in Latin America”
Luncheon with the Dean
12:30-1:30 pm
Session Two
2:00-3:30 pm
  • Hannah Gurman: “Is Trump's Wall New? Exploring the History of US Border and Immigration Enforcement”
  • Sara Murphy: “Empathy and Its Limits: Literature and Human Rights”
  • Peter V. Rajsingh: “Putting Your Head on the Block”
Session Three
3:30-5:00 pm
  • Kimberly Phillips-Fein: “Fear City: What New York in the 1970s Tells Us About Our Country Today”
  • George Shulman: “What is the Place of Truth and the Role of Truth-Telling in (American) Politics?”
  • Matt Stanley: “Einstein: His Life and Universe,” A Lecture with Discussion
Alumni Wine Tasting led by Scott Rosenbaum (BA ’05, Steinhardt MA ’09)
5:00-7:00 pm


11:00 am

Michael Dinwiddie: “The 1980s East Village: B-Boys, Basquiat and Binibons”
With its cheap rents and polyglot population, New York’s East Village in the 1980s was a magnet for painters, poets, punk rockers, photographers, playwrights and performers intent on self-assertion and exploration. Inexpensive Ukrainian, Bangladeshi, and Latino restaurants thrived alongside Italian and Jewish eateries established by earlier immigrants. Theaters, dance troupes, storefront galleries and venues such as CBGB’s and the Nuyorican Poets Café served as the launching pads for musical and artistic movements that would radically alter the landscape of American culture. No matter where you came from, who you might be, or who you wanted to become, the neighborhood provided a safe haven for discovery and experimentation. The proliferation of crack cocaine led to an increase in street violence, and “gentrification” created displacement and homelessness for many longtime residents. By the end of the 1980s, the AIDS epidemic had begun to impact every segment of the community. In this session, we will explore the ways in which the East Village of the 1980s fought these challenges and evolved into the neighborhood we recognize today.

Stephen Duncombe: “The Art of Political Imagination”
"Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought," writes Audre Lorde, deftly outlining the power of art to envision personal and political possibilities. For millennia, art has been used politically, as an effective means to critique the world as it is and to imagine the world as it could be. In this class we will explore, in theory as well as practice, some of the ways that art—and artful forms of activism—have been used for such political purposes. Special attention will be paid to the words of Audre Lorde, the poems of W.H. Auden, and the theories of Jacques Rancière. Examples will be drawn from the early Soviet avant-garde, the photos and murals of the US New Deal, the US Civil Rights Movement, and contemporary examples of artistic activism across the globe. (Click here to download the three readings, which students should read in advance of class.)

Stacy Pies: “Language as the Political: Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse
Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse is a novel that presents us with questions about art, women, families, love, social class, and politics. How does language enact a politics that the text implies? We will look at what happens as Mr. and Mrs. Ramsey negotiate their relationship through conversations, and as the text describes their movements and reports their unspoken thoughts. What does Woolf reveal about the ability of narration to tell a story that acts as a counterpoint to the story of the characters? We will explore layers of love and language in this novel to see how the narration illuminates and comments on relations between women and men, women and women, and women and themselves. (Students should read the book in advance of class.)

Alejandro Velasco: “From Left to Right (and Back Again?) in Latin America”
Headlines from Latin America are dire: in Venezuela, more and more people flee as a “socialist” government clings to power amid a collapsing economy; in Brazil, a “neoliberal” government jails high-profile opponents while grassroots activists are assassinated with impunity; in Nicaragua, former leftist revolutionaries violently repress mass protests against proposed pension reforms; in Mexico, the bloodletting of students, activists, and passers-by continues unabated as the state stands by, and sometimes with, drug cartels wreaking havoc; in Guatemala, once-promising efforts to bring purveyors of genocide to justice grind to a halt amid corruption allegations; throughout the region, a resurgent feminist movement collides with evangelicals flexing their political muscle as never before. Against this backdrop it is difficult to recall that just five years ago the news out of Latin America was very different: dramatic poverty reduction, enviable economic growth, vibrant social movements asserting—and winning—social rights; all markers of a “pink tide” that brought progressive governments of various stripes to power for nearly two decades. So . . . what happened? This seminar considers the short- and long-term roots of Latin America’s current crises. What did observers and analysts of Latin America’s “pink tide” get right and wrong? Have categories like “right” and “left” lost relevance amid such cross-cutting crises? What do conventional media narratives about the region in the US—and about US policy towards Latin America in the Trump era—obscure and reveal? And what are the prospects for Latin America as its citizens confront crises local, national, and regional all at once?

2:00 pm

Hannah Gurman: “Is Trump's Wall New? Exploring the History of US Border and Immigration Enforcement”
Donald Trump campaigned on the promise to build a border wall and enforce the nation’s immigration laws. Since his election, the US Border Patrol (BP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have been empowered to arrest, detain, and deport undocumented individuals, separating thousands of families, many who have lived in the United States for decades. As with the rise of Trump more generally, the heightened policing of undocumented immigrants raises questions about the relationship between the present and the past. In what ways is Trump’s border and immigration enforcement regime new? How does it build on existing apparatuses, frameworks, and discourses of border security? In grappling with these questions, we will explore the long history of the relationship between race and border enforcement; the expansion of “interior border enforcement” away from the territorial border since the 1970s; and the merger of crime and immigration enforcement in recent decades. Reflecting on the politics of this exploration, we will share our thoughts about the possibilities and limits of using this history to challenge the current system.

Sara Murphy: “Empathy and Its Limits: Literature and Human Rights”
What does literature have to offer to human rights discourse—and vice versa? In what ways are human rights possibly best expressed through literary practices and representations? The intersection of literature and human rights has become, over the past several years, a flourishing area of interdisciplinary study. Some years ago, the historian Lynn Hunt claimed that the novel had a substantial role in the development of Western human rights thinking: by encouraging readers to empathize with distant others, the novel bridges differences, and highlights commonality. In this seminar, we’ll complicate this claim by looking at some short texts and asking some difficult questions. What kinds of literary forms incite empathy . . . and for whom? What are the limits of empathy—and what other roles can literature play in relation to human rights? (Click here to download the five readings, which students should read in advance of class.)

Peter V. Rajsingh: “Putting Your Head on the Block”
What is Blockchain? How does it work? Why is ignoring this tech revolution analogous to Paul Krugman’s wrongheaded 1998 statement that the “Internet’s impact on the economy [will be] no greater than the fax machine’s?” From Bitcoin to smart contracts, we will discuss how Blockchain is changing the world.

3:30 pm
Kimberly Phillips-Fein: “Fear City: What New York in the 1970s Tells Us About Our Country Today”
In 1975, New York City almost declared bankruptcy. Even though it didn’t actually default on its debt, the crisis transformed life in the city and helped to shift the country’s politics to the right. In this course, we’ll talk about the politics of the fiscal crisis, look at some of the historical artifacts from the time, and think about how the city’s politics and culture in the 1970s helped pave the way for the political crises of our own era. Phillips-Feins’ book, Fear City: New York's Fiscal Crisis and the Rise of Austerity Politics, was a finalist for a 2018 Pulitzer Prize in History.

George Shulman: “What is the Place of Truth and the Role of Truth-Telling in (American) Politics?”
In my view, many liberal and left critics of Trumpian politics defend truth and facts against fantasy and lies in a way that is profoundly problematic, philosophically simplistic, anti-political.
This discussion addresses a cluster of related questions:

  • What is the role of facts in politics? Is their meaning self-evident, of depend on interpretations that can vary and conflict?
  • What is the relation between specific facts and the plural perspectives we see in politics?
  • What happens when people lose confidence in "factuality" or lose the "common sense" of inhabiting the same reality?
  • What is the significance of constant lying and its normalization?
  • How are any of us brought to "face the facts" we would avoid, deny, forget?
  • Is imagination or fantasy in politics necessarily a problem? Are utopian, radical, creative fictions in fact necessary to engender social change?
  • How are people enabled to imagine life otherwise?
Matt Stanley: “Einstein: His Life and Universe,” A Lecture with Discussion
Einstein’s name is synonymous with genius. His wild-haired, thoughtful-eyed face has become an icon of modern science. His ideas changed the way we see the universe, the meaning of truth, and the very limits of human knowledge. This course will examine how Einstein’s youthful philosophical questioning led to a revolution in science. We will discuss his creation of Special and General Relativity, and particularly how these epochal theories emerged from his seemingly simple questions about how we experience the world. His preference for easily visualizable thought experiments means we will be able to engage deeply with the science with very little mathematics. Einstein also pioneered quantum mechanics, only to reject its strange consequences and eventually devote his life to overturning it through a Unified Field Theory.
Einstein’s elevation to worldwide fame was closely tied to political and social developments such as World War I, Zionism, and the rise of the Nazis. As he became an incarnation of genius, people sought out his views on everything from world peace to the nature of God—and his opinions often had surprising links to his scientific work. The picture of Einstein we end up with is a figure somehow both revolutionary and deeply traditional, emblematic of the modern age and also profoundly uncomfortable with it.
5 pm
Alumni Wine Tasting
Host Scott Rosenbaum (BA ’05, Steinhardt MA ’09) is the Spirits Strategist for T. Edward Wines, a New York-based importer and distributor. He lectures at the International Wine Center and is an adjunct professor at NYU and Hudson County Community College. He’s been quoted by Men’s Journal on the topic of martinis, has consulted on the wine and cocktail lists of over two dozen New York restaurants, and has judged more than a dozen wine and spirit competitions. Alumni and guests are welcome to join in this networking event.